In this year of Sabbath and in this time of Advent, I am so grateful for space in which to give attention to stories, their folding and unfolding. I was recalled to this, as I am over and over, by time spent last week with a congregation looking to learn more about Governance as Spiritual Practice.
I always emerge carrying questions from these conversations about this way of governance. The questions take me deeper into this governance that roots faith formation at its heart and that encourages participation from the edges and also those hidden places or people deep within the body.
I am grateful for a question last week about evaluation. My inchoate thoughts on evaluation found completion through this question. I know so clearly now that story is the way to evaluate this practice. This is not surprising, in that we are narrative people; people of the Book that is in essence narrative, rather than a book of columns totted up. This is in no way to disparage the orderly keeping of numerical accounts, rather it is to realize that stories do create and evaluate our experience, and that this is a valid way of knowing. It is to say that some things cannot be measured in quantitative ways and that to attempt this kind of measurement does justice neither to the quantitative evidence, the one who attempts that measurement, nor to that which is measured.
I can tell you lots of stories of Governance as Spiritual Practice, stories of trust and creativity, of threading the narrative of Scripture through the narrative of our congregation or faith community. I can tell stories of how mystery informs practicality and how in tiny increments and occasional leaps trust grows.
This way of governance is full of stories and, if I can invite you to step into them, you will know without numbers or other quantitative criteria the worth of this way. If the narrative I open allows you to enter, carrying your own experience of barrenness or birth in congregational life and faith, you will know that this is spiritual practice. You don’t have to know whether it will add new members or whether it will extend the life of your congregation in linear terms. You have only to know how you were opened to gospel, how community awoke like a sleeping limb; how liveliness bubbled up in individuals or groups previously silent or silenced.
This way of governance is not a quick fix. It requires trust and risk and a commitment to the slow work of God in us. Its effects deepen through time. If you adopt this practice, take note of the stories. They will shape you and tell you what you long to know.